For 10 years, the Cornell Chordials have made a cappella speak to contemporary tastes. The co-ed vocal ensemble is about to celebrate a decade of innovation and the completion of its fourth CD with a concert, "Cocktail Hour X," April 14 at 8 p.m. in the David L. Call Auditorium in Kennedy Hall, joined by a cast of alumni.
The Chordials, who sing competitively and on tour, were founded in 1997 by Elana Wolff '01 to perform arrangements of contemporary music in a cappella style without many standard conventions of the genre. Rather than focusing on the soulful harmonies of doo-wop or the highly technical arrangements of classical vocal music, they sought to make music that was accessible and appealing in a different way.
"We have a pretty different style than groups here or other groups anywhere else, for that matter," says Chordials musical director Ari Goldman '09. "We try to sound like a band in whatever genre we're trying to tackle, using different syllables and vocal percussion, as opposed to other groups that might use more standard a cappella syllables like doo-wop or bop." By cutting through standard ideas about a cappella, the Chordials perform with an expressiveness and energy that is unexpected.
"One reason for our success is the fact that we do so many different genres of music and come from so many different backgrounds," says assistant musical director Tess Brandon '07. "I think the group is tight partially because we've spent so much time together. It makes us pretty quirky."
Their new album, "Arrival," features songs by such diverse musicians as pop singer Robbie Williams and the bands Evanescence and Nine Inch Nails.
"The entire CD production was funded by us," notes business manager Melissa Ireland '08. "Cornell funds the concerts each semester and provides a rehearsal space, and the rest of it is done by playing gigs around campus and at schools."
In 2001 the Chordials made their debut at the International Championship for Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) quarterfinals in Rochester, N.Y.; Gabi Kornfeld '04 received the best soloist award for her performance of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." The Chordials continued to garner acclaim at ICCA competitions, winning awards for best choreography, best arrangement and best percussion. In 2004, under the musical direction of Robert Shapiro '04, the group placed third among a cappella groups from around the world at the ICCA finals in New York City.